Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sweet and Simple


It has been a good Christmas this year.
The kids are still playing with their new things, 3 days after, so I know they are happy.
I bought presents on sale with coupons throughout the year, and that was a major help-- when Andrew lost his job, we already had more than half of our presents bought and stashed away.
There were no big ticket items, just small things for each of our children, and a few shared items.

Even the gifts they got from other family members have been toned down, something I appreciate greatly since I always feel bad that I cannot reciprocate.  I know they enjoy giving, but it doesn't make me feel any less guilty when I cannot give in the same fashion to them or their children.

Every year, I make fudge, cookies, candies and bars to give as gifts.  I didn't make very much this year, it feels like time got away from me and I chose to spend time with the kiddos or doing other things. I think it's time to accept that I'll never make over 800 cookies like I did for a few Christmases before the kids came along! I did manage to make two different ornaments to give as gifts this year and I love them!

Felt rooster and fimo clay snowflake

better shot of snowflake detail
I got the rooster idea from the Better Homes and Gardens December issue..  I just eyeballed the ornament then made my own pattern and ran with it! I can't remember where I saw the snowflake idea-- off of someones blog probably, and I went out to get me a snowflake stamp with my 40% off coupon. So simple but makes a nice ornament.  I made this after the kids went to bed and I set a little table in front of me and watched an episode of Supernatural while rolling and stamping.

I'm ready to put away the tree and decorations, to get the house back to normal again. I went out the day after Christmas to shop the clearance sales and use some of the gift cards we got. Stocked up on Christmas craft projects to put away for next year, Christmas cards, gift tags, and little bits and bobs for future stocking stuffers and party favors.  I have two January babies to shop for and I'm all done! Thanks clearance sales!

Looking forward to the new year and hope it will be a good one for us all.
Happy New Year!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Out of the Bag!!

Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love cats. And how kittens are my kryptonite.
So when I saw an ad in the local paper for two (2!!) pure white kittens, free to a good home, I just couldn't resist!  Andrew and I have always talked about getting a white cat someday, but how often does one see two white kittens at the same time?!  Not too often in my experience. So we called and the lady said she found them and brought them home but already has too many cats of her own. They're now ours.
We told the kids they are an early Christmas gift to the family and boy, they are loved.

We've had them a little more than a week now, and they are just so cute!!
Any of you seen "Despicable Me"??  You know that scene where they are at the amusement park and he wins the unicorn for the little girl?  She squeezes it and squeals, "It's so fluffy!"  That's exactly how I feel about these kittens- they're so fluffy! squeeeee!!

Meet Bones and Walter, the newest additions to the Mountain Mama Zoo!
Tag! You're IT!

I caught a mouse and it was 'this' big!

Well it ain't behind here!

I got it! No, I got it! No, I got it! No, I got it!

Whoa! You can really jump!

Look, you stay there, I'll stay here, and we'll see who catches the mouse!


Whaddaya mean my tail is showing?!

After a few days of growling and Percy giving a few sound smacks, they're all one happy family.  I've seen Percy giving the little ones a bath and he lets them sleep on top of him. Looks like the boys have a new papa!

Do you mind? These pipsqueaks kept me up all night last night, I need my sleep!
 They've been a wonderful addition to the family and a pretty good way to kick start the Holidays. 
Merry Christmas to you and yours! xoxo

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yummies for the Holidays

I make and give a lot of home made cookies and candies as gifts to family and friends.  I'm always on the lookout for something new and when I spotted a recipe that included chocolate, peanut butter and pretzels, well, need I say more?

As always, when trying out a new recipe, a sample batch must be made. I like to test out how easy or difficult it is to make, how time-consuming it may be, how much does it produce, and of course, the taste test! My favorite part!

Peanut butter mixture rolled into balls, then pressed between two mini pretzels, and dipped in melted chocolate. How could this combination fail? And it didn't.  It's oh, so good!

What is it about the salty and sweet? Peanut butter and chocolate? Crunchy and creamy?
My melted chocolate wasn't gooey enough for dipping, so I ended up spooning the chocolate onto each pretzel sandwich. I used twice as much chocolate than the recipe called for, but that's OK. It's worth the extra chocolate!

It was easy to make, the most time-consuming task was rolling the peanut butter mixture into small balls.  This could easily be a job for the little ones to do, if you don't mind ending up with half the amount-- because I'm pretty sure it would end up with one ball rolled for the pretzel and one ball rolled for the mouth!

I made this using milk chocolate and when I ran out of that, I used semi-sweet chocolate. Both are equally delicious!

Not quite bite-sized, just one or two would be enough to satisfy that sweet tooth!

These would look lovely packaged up into canning jars or small bags and wrapped with a ribbon as gifts. They'll tempt guests in pretty dishes or platters and make great hostess gifts at the holiday party you're invited to, or for the potluck at the office party.

Ready to make your own?

Chocolate-dipped Peanut Butter Pretzels

1 C creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp softened butter
1 C powdered sugar
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1 pound bag of small pretzel twists (this uses nearly the whole bag)
2 bags of  semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Combine peanut butter, butter, and sugars and with a mixer, mix until crumbly.  Using hands, roll into small balls, teaspoon size.  Flatten balls slightly and sandwich between two pretzels.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

Melt chips in microwave. Heat for one minute, stir, then heat in 10 second increments until completely melted. Dip chilled pretzel sandwiches in chocolate then place onto wax paper and refrigerate. (I couldn't dip mine very well, so I spooned chocolate onto the sandwiches instead)

Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge and enjoy or give as gifts! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Commence Christmas Music!

December 1st and we're getting into the spirit! The tree is up, the Advent Calendar is hung, cookie recipes are calling my name...  It's beginning to feel like Christmas around here! Even Andrew is getting elfish!

Even though Andrew is now working, it doesn't mean that we are spend, spend, spending.  We are still frugal with our money, and I shopped for gifts the whole year, scoring items on sale or with coupons to make it an even sweeter deal.  I'm pretty much done with gifts for the kiddos this year, but I still have a few items I need to pick up for other family members. 

Despite repeated requests not to exchange gifts, we have relatives that insist on giving the children something and I always feel bad not having anything in return. I know it's the season of giving, but I always feel like I'm taking and taking and not giving. So I am trying hard this year to come up with some simple gifts that are thoughtful and appreciated, without feeling like I've just drained the bank account.  I don't spend a whole lot on my own children, so it makes no sense to me to spend a lot on my nieces and nephews. It doesn't mean I love them any less-- on the contrary, I am putting a lot of love into what I am making/creating and hoping they'll like what I've come up with.

Andrew has an Aunt that just loooooves snickers-- I plan on making a cloth bucket and filling it with  full-size snickers candy bars for her.  Simple, yet it will be something I know she'll enjoy, and it didn't cost a lot of money, because I used coupons for the candy bars, and it was just a little bit of time at the sewing machine.  I'll be making several similar gifts like this for the Aunts and Uncles, for the ones that have a sweet tooth and put their favorite candies inside them.

For the kiddos-- I have group gifts for them to share, but I'd like to get them all something special for individual gifts.  I'm still thinking and working on that.  I can't say too much here, but I have a few ideas up my sleeve.

 I get to go out all by myself next week-- a rarity now that Andrew is working and I have to wait for a day off, and I'll be picking up items and stopping at the fabric store for a few things.  I don't want to take the kids with me-- they'll see items I want to keep a surprise.  And I must admit, Peter is not the best shopping companion. Whew! He's a handful, that one!  I don't enjoy shopping with him along, I get all flustered and frustrated and I end up forgetting items on my list, or errors are made with the coupons and I end up paying more than I should have, but I can't figure out what went wrong when I am wrestling with a squirmy, screamy toddler that just wants me to let him go and get. down. now. Just reading that last sentence makes me want to go lie down!  He's a great kid, I know he just wants to run and explore and if mama wants to shop, it's not a good combination! Better to leave him at home where he's on familiar turf and I can do my thing in peace.

I have Christmas music playing on my internal radio and I love when the kids tell me they hear certain songs on the radio. They still believe in the magic of Christmas and they were so excited when the tree went up. Now it's the battle of the wills between parents and kids at getting them to leave. the. tree. alone. I actually went so far as to take off the garland and tears were flowing, "I'll be good, I'll be good!  No, mama! Please! We won't touch the tree anymore!" I left it off a day before putting it back up and it worked for a while.  The threat has lost its' power now, so the newest warning is: Any bad behavior and you have to take an ornament off the tree!  So far so good!

I've been thumbing through recipe books, looking for new ideas for cookies and bars.  Before kids (B.K.), I used to make hundreds of cookies and give them as gifts.  After kids (A.K.), I'm lucky if I can make a couple of batches and then fend off the hungry cookie monsters. If anyone got a dozen cookies, they're the lucky ones! This year, I have a good feeling I'll be able to make more than a few batches.  I have some cookie ideas bubbling up in that brain of mine and can't wait to make a test batch.

I made eggnog spice cake the other day and man oh man! Is that ever good!!  Moist and flavorful, and I get that great eggnoggy taste I love in every bite! It's a keeper!  Anything cooked in a bundt pan looks great and we love cake that requires no frosting! The only thing is I would cook it a little longer next time, 40-45 minutes isn't long enough, I'll try 50-55 minutes next time. 

Any good cookies recipes you want to share? I'd love to try new ones!